Past Newsletter: January 2009

Past Newsletter: January 2009


Having healthy teeth and an attractive smile is something we all aspire to. Key to this is knowledge and education. This is the underlying reason for the introduction of this newsletter, which will be delivered directly to your email inbox on a quarterly basis.

Each newsletter will feature a different topic, arming you with educational information that informs you of the latest trends, topics and facts about dentistry.

This first issue deals with the topic of teeth whitening, which I hope you will find interesting and informative.

Yours sincerely
Dr Aleksandra Cerny

Want that whiter, brighter smile? Here are some facts
By Dr Aleksandra Cerny

Cosmetic dentistry is gaining recognition with teeth whitening being one of the more popular requests. However, not many people understand the concept, the various techniques and what can realistically be achieved, sometimes resulting in disappointment.

The first step is to understand the types of treatments available and then choose the best or appropriate one for you.

There are various treatments and techniques that make use of light-emitting diode (LED) light (and not a laser as often assumed), which is rather expensive. Bleaching is a popular and cost effective alternative.

There are three types of bleaching treatments currently available: in-office bleaching, professional home bleaching kits and over-the-counter bleaching kits.

In-office bleaching takes place in the dentist’s chair. In-office bleaching takes place in the dentists chair and incorporates a high concentration of bleach in the product applied to the teeth – approximately 37%. Results are fast — within one hour — and this type of treatment is quick and convenient.

Professional home bleaching kits contain a far lower concentration of bleach — approximately 9% — and must be applied over 10 – 12 days for optimal results to be achieved. This type of whitening treatment is far gentler and provides a more stable colour.

There is, however, some risk in not having a professional consultation with your dentist to establish the condition and health of your mouth and teeth before using the bleach as the treatment can result in hypersensitivity and damage where cavities or excessive gum recession and/or disease is present.

While the ‘in-office’ bleaching is quick and relatively painless, it must be stated that teeth whitening is not a ‘quick fix’. Bleaching, whether an in-office treatment or a professional home bleaching kit, is not a permanent solution but must rather be repeated, usually on an annual basis. This is where professional home-bleaching kits become much more affordable.

An in-office whitening treatment can cost in the region of R3,500 or R4,000, whereas a professional home bleaching kit (including a consultation, impressions and bleaching trays) costs in the region of R2,400. The subsequent annual re-applications only require the purchase of the actual bleaching product or gel which is in the region of R400, making this option much more affordable.

Irrespective of the type of treatment, it is imperative to have a clinical assessment or consultation with your dentist to establish the overall health of your mouth, including decay and infection of teeth and gums. A whitening treatment should only commence once the all clear is given on the health of the persons’ mouth.

Teeth whitening results are dependent on a number of factors, including the thickness of the enamel and the extent of discolouration. If the enamel is thicker on the surface of the teeth, the results of bleaching are more dramatic. If a tooth is excessively discoloured, bleaching will not deliver the whitest of white results. This must be considered when considering a teeth whitening procedure.

Another key consideration is that the bleach will not whiten restorations such as crowns, veneers and bonding. This may result in ‘technicolour’ teeth. It is recommended that the restorations are replaced with a product of a more suitable colour after the teeth whitening procedure to ensure a correct match.

When embarking on teeth whitening, a few side effects can be expected. These include hypersensitivity (usually for a day or two), the feeling of thickness of the teeth, and a headache, earache and/or toothache. These symptoms are temporary and are normal with such treatments.

Teeth whitening can improve the quality of one’s life through an increase in self confidence. It is recommended you research the various techniques and methods and consult your dentist before making a decision.